Lay Sermon: Living it Together 1 & 2 Timothy Sep 12 – October 24, 2010. Pentecost 20C, Week 4
God’s unchained Word 2 Timothy 2:8-15
We continue delving into the Timothy journey this morning in the Second Letter Paul writes to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. The situation is difficult for Paul. He is reaching his end in a Roman prison. He is longing to see and hear from his “son” in the faith, Timothy. Paul wishes his son was with him as he faces day after day in a dark, damp cell, in chains, with no one with him except Luke.
Out of his chained body and his chained spirit Paul trusts something. He makes one of bold statements of the gospel that has stood the community of Christ in good stead in its worst times of threat from within and without – “I am suffering in chains, but the Word of God is not chained”, declares Paul to Timothy.
Now that is a statement of faith! For all intents and purposes, it looks as if the Word of God which has burnt in Paul’s heart and come from his mouth and by his hand these last 30 years since the resurrection is nearly silenced. The “great man” is alone and imprisoned, unwell, grieving, not free to speak anymore to anyone.
His close companions have bailed out. It seem only Luke, the evangelist, is with Paul now – or at least his only regular visitor. To make this confident statement about how things are from God’s point of view is faith on show.
“Even though the Word is nearly silenced in me, it will never be silenced. Even though I rattle around in these painful chains and my energy is spent. God is not spent and his word is on the move way beyond me”, declared Paul.
What a word of faith an encouragement to a young pastor and a young community having trouble with words! There seems to be lots of arguments and disputes over many things in the Ephesian church.
There is dodgy teaching by two characters at least; Hymnanaeus and Philetus, “who have wondered away from the truth” (verse 18). They have decided that the resurrection to life for all the baptized people of God has already happened and this has destroyed the faith of some in the community of faith in Ephesus. There are “foolish and stupid arguments” going on and Paul is encouraging Timothy to “avid them because they only ever end in “quarrels” which leads to resentment among God’s people (verses 23-24).
We may think that a few arguments and a bit of gossip about the community is no big deal. We may resign ourselves to the fact that we are human beings and these kinds of words do happen in the church. Paul allows no such “giving in” to “godless chatter”. He is very strong here and directs his apprentice and son to be very strong here too. Why is this?
Well Paul is of the belief that the more of this kind of gossip and argumentative words we share, the more self-focused, resentful of others and “godless” we will become.
The message is that words are very important and are to be respected, thought about, carefully chosen and God focused. He instructs Timothy as the pastor of this community to steer very clear of all this argumentative kind of behavior. He instructs him to tell to people to keep clear of it too.
Surely Paul, who has been on the end of heartless and damaging words for years knows a thing or two about the damage and argumentative and quarrelsome word can do to a person and the community of God.
We do too. Harsh words hurt and create unnecessary anger that can easily lead to resentment – and so quickly – even between people who had nothing much to fight about even an hour ago!
In the murky world of arguments and hurtful words there is a solid, dependable and life-giving word which triumphs over our petty squabbles and our deep hurt. It is God’s Word.
Paul calls out to us to “remember”. Remember Jesus. Remember his resurrection and his victory over all untruth. Remember Jesus, the new King David, from a human family (that of King David) and yet now “King of all kings” (1Timothy 6:15). All this ungodly focus and harsh wording among God’s people can be so confusing and faith-destroying, and yet God’s Word remains clear and true and consistent and above all – life-giving. It resurrects us as it resurrected Jesus. It rules the church as Jesus the new King David rules now.
So, if God’s Word is never chained in any one person or any one church community or any one situation of sorrow or hurt or resentment, then we can endure. That’s where Paul takes this faith he has in God’s unchained word.
Because God’s Word moves on beyond us and sometime in spite of us, we can endure whatever words come our way. Paul says “I endure everything (including shame, loneliness, ill-health, resentment at being unfairly chained….) for the sake of the elect”. Paul can endure this not for his sake, but for the sake of the people in Timothy’s church and every other follower of Jesus.
The goal of his enduring is the salvation and life of God’s people. He is still totally committed to the Call God put on his life to be an “apostle to the Gentiles”. He still burns for those outside the household of God and will endure all to do all he can to make sure that God’s word is unchained in the world. If we die with him we will live with him. If we endure, we will rule with him if we are faithless he will remain faithful, declares Paul as he remembers some hymn that people seem to know.
In the end Paul instructs the Pastor of the church to be in the business of memory keeping. He uses this song people know to do just that and gives Timothy a resource to help him keep people’s hearts and minds focused on Jesus the resurrected King. “Keep reminding the people of these things”, says Paul to Timothy. Remind them of what?
Jesus is the resurrected king of kings, the Ord of Life and the head of the church who rules in grace and power. His Word is the living thing that keeps us straight and true. His Word avoids unnecessary agreements and the resulting fighting and resentment that this always brings into the community. His Word brings life and healing to the community.His Word will ensure that we endure any harsh word or situation and in the end ensure that we remain “workers, approved by God” (verse 15).
That’s God’s part. Our part is to respond. “Do your best”, Paul says, “to be a worker approved by God who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the Word of God” (verse 16).
Correctly handling the Word surely means not using it to argue! Rightly handling the Word of God means careful use, thoughtful response, respectful and gentler application to those who have a different point of view.
Paul goes on to say that :The Lord’s servant must not join the quarrel, instead he must do kindness, be able to teach (the Word), not resentful….he must gently instruct in the hope that God will grant people the gift and ability to repent of sin and find peace in Christ (2Timothy 2:24-25).
This is our way of being together and enduring together at Ocean Forest. We need to help each other stay away from argumentative behavior and harsh words. The way we do this to affirm in our words and actions the truth that God’s Word is the authority on all things and that it does not reside in any one person fully! We all share the Word and have authority to encourage each other in it.
As much as it is up to us, we do acts of kindness and take the gentle approach to working through different points of view, always bowing to God’s Word as the final authority in life.
We handle the Word of God with respect and great care as we reflect on it for ourselves, share it with others, teach it to our children and receive it into our own heart for our own life.
As we receive God’s Word we endure and we are doing exactly what we are called to do. As we handle it carefully and kindly with others we are being workers in God’s vineyard who know we have his approval for our work. Amen